Denise Mwiza Gasangwa is the founder of Ganza Arts, a cultural training hub through which Rwandans can learn more about cultural values through dances, and storytelling as a way of preserving the Rwandan culture.
The 21-year-old is a Marketing student at University of Kigali and says the centre mainly teaches children how to dance traditionally, poetry, languages, core values and debates by experienced mentors with traditional culture-related background.
The class was also recently opened at Kigali Culture Village, and Mwiza is planning to take the same classes in different fitness centres.
Mwiza talked to Sunday Magazine’s Eddie Nsabimana on how the traditional dance class contributes towards preserving Rwandan culture and why the young generation should embrace it.
How did you come up with the idea to start a traditional dance class for children?
I grew up with love for traditional dances and have always been passionate about Rwandan culture. Surprisingly, I have never enrolled in any traditional dance troupe but the love I have for the Rwandan culture inspired me to think of ways to contribute to preserve it.
We want to teach people, especially the young generation about Rwandan culture because given how the western culture seems to dominate our young generation’s life, I feared that our culture is in danger if we don’t do something now.
Denise Mwiza, the Founder of Ganza Arts. / Courtesy
Well, our culture can’t disappear completely but as youth we need to do something for the good of future generations.
It would be a shame if someone from abroad asks you to show them how to dance traditionally and you fail to do so. We are supposed to proudly show our visitors from foreign countries how our traditional dance is like and that is why we should learn it.
For instance, I studied in a school where they used to ban us (students) from speaking Kinyarwanda. Unless we studied it as a lesson in class, English was a compulsory communication language at our school. And sometimes, some of us would not even use Kinyarwanda at home because our parents only communicate in English.
Who is eligible to be part of the class?
Anyone is eligible, whether Rwandan or a foreigner. We train children from six years. We also have training sessions for adults. We have experienced trainers for the traditional dance class and we also invite mentors with culture-based background to share with the children about cultural values and the history of Rwanda culture.
Children display their dancing skills at Ganza Fitness club.
The only requirement is that a trainee pays Rwf 2000 for one class session or Rwf 10,000 for a month.
With the trainings you offer, what outcomes do you expect from the class?
I want to see Rwandans speak their mother tongue well and have an identity which they are proud of wherever they go.
Do you think Rwandan youth are enthusiast about their culture?
The biggest challenge we have is living in a world with so many cultures which many youths think is better than their own.
I believe that teaching them traditional dances, storytelling and core-values of our ancestors can help them remember the true identity of a Rwandan citizen.
What are the major challenges of teaching young children the Rwandan culture?
The only challenge I faced in the beginning was to convince people to come and join the class. But because I feel like this is something people need a lot, I am hopeful they will be joining as time goes by.